How to Keep Your Dental Costs Down

dental cost can be high and vary widely from one dentist to the next. But with a little shopping around and careful budgeting, you can save money.

Dental insurance typically covers 100% of preventive care and 80% of basic care such as fillings, while also covering 50% of major procedures like crowns. However, most dental policies have a yearly maximum.

Preventive care

The best way to keep your dental costs down is to regularly attend preventive visits. These include twice-yearly cleanings, x-rays and fluoride treatments. This helps reduce the need for more extensive procedures down the road.

Many dental insurance plans operate much the same as standard health insurance, but prices are lower. A monthly premium typically costs less than $50, and an annual deductible averages around $100.

Most dental plans use a 100/80/50 cost-sharing model, with preventive care covered at 100%, basic services (like fillings) at 80%, and major procedures like crowns and root canals at 50%. However, these numbers can change based on the specific plan and insurer.

Other types of dental insurance, including dental HMOs and dental Preferred Provider Organizations (DPPOs), tend to have higher monthly premiums and have more restrictions, such as a limited provider network. They also often require referrals to see specialists.

Routine cleanings

Taking care of your teeth by brushing twice a day and flossing is essential to good oral health. Routine cleanings remove hardened plaque and tartar to prevent gum disease and other oral issues. Regular dental cleanings can also help prevent bad breath and keep your smile looking bright.

Most insurance policies will cover the cost of two routine dental cleanings per year. However, some policies may require patients to pay a co-payment or deductible on any additional treatments.

Many communities have low-cost dental care options, including local dental and dental hygiene schools that offer affordable cleanings and other treatments. In addition, community health centers and state programs often provide free dental cleanings based on income or other eligibility factors. Patients who need a deeper cleaning, which is also known as periodontal maintenance, can expect to pay more than a routine dental cleaning. This type of cleaning involves using a stream of medicated water to reach beyond the gum lines and remove the buildup that causes gum disease.


When a cavity forms, it’s important to get it filled as soon as possible to prevent further decay and infection. This can help you avoid more expensive dental treatments in the future, like root canals or extractions.

The cost of fillings depends on the type and size of the cavity, and which materials are used. Silver amalgam fillings are the cheapest, while composite resin and porcelain inlays are more expensive. Porcelain inlays are also known as onlays and three-quarter crowns, and they offer a more natural look while resisting staining.

Fortunately, many dental insurance providers cover cavity fillings as part of their routine care plans. However, you’ll want to check your dental insurance plan’s annual maximum, which is the maximum amount of money that your insurance company will pay for covered services in a year. Dental discount plans can be a great way to offset the cost of treatment, as they typically have low annual maximums and allow you to save up to 75% on procedures.


Crowns, also known as caps, encase an entire tooth to restore its shape and size, strength, and improve its appearance. This popular treatment is used for teeth that have been broken or decayed, and can save a severely damaged tooth from being removed or having to undergo a root canal.

Dental crowns can be made from porcelain, ceramic, metal, or a combination of materials. Porcelain and ceramic are the most costly but look and feel the most like your natural teeth. Metal and stainless steel crowns are the least expensive, but they don’t last as long as other options.

Most dental insurance plans cover up to 50% of the cost of major restorative care, including crowns.5 However, it is important to understand your dental plan’s coverage before going in for this treatment.

Root canals

Root canal treatment is a necessary procedure when dental X-rays indicate that your tooth’s pulp has become infected. If left untreated, the infection can spread and cause pain or even lead to tooth loss.

The cost of a root canal varies, but most dental insurance plans will cover at least a portion of the procedure after you meet your deductible. The type of tooth that requires a root canal will also affect the cost. Front teeth and bicuspids typically have fewer roots and are easier to access for treatment, while premolars and molars have many roots that can be harder to treat.

If you don’t have insurance, a root canal can be very expensive, but most dental offices are happy to work out payment plans or deals with healthcare credit providers like CareCredit. If you’re unable to afford the cost of a root canal, your dentist may recommend having the infected tooth pulled, which will be much more expensive than replacing it with a dental implant or bridge.


Orthodontics, which involve the use of dental appliances to correct misaligned teeth, are typically covered in full or partially by most dental insurance plans. Some insurance companies also offer a specialized orthodontic benefit that covers braces and other oral appliances for children. Many dental plans have a co-insurance component that requires patients to pay a percentage of treatment costs after the deductible is met. Others have a fixed copay for specific services, like x-rays or office visits. Many dental insurance plans also have an annual maximum, which is the amount the insurer will pay for care in a year.

When comparing dental plans available in the marketplace or from employers, it’s important to look at the type of coverage and network availability. Some plans have a broad network while others are more restrictive. Additionally, it’s wise to consider the annual maximum and whether there are waiting periods for certain treatments.

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